Ohio's 911 service for cell users at country's bottom, Ohio GA couldn't get act together

Gee, who do you suppose got us into this fine mess this time, Ollie? From the Plain Dealer:

Dial 9-1-1 on a cell phone in Northeast Ohio and most other areas of the state, and the dispatcher probably will need help locating you.

Ohio lags far behind the rest of the nation in implementing the technology to pinpoint the location of distressed cell-phone callers.

Only 10 states offer worse coverage, according to a report by the National Emergency Number Association.

Only 14 of Ohio’s 88 counties — about 16 percent — can identify where a cell-phone call originates. The national average is 60 percent.

Hmmm…according to the Plain Dealer article:

Ohio waited longer than most states to figure out a revenue source, leading to implementation delays, said Patrick Halley, the government affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association.

When did they realize that they needed to help Ohio’s 911 dispatchers and what did all their deep-thinking, waiting and caution produce? From the PD:

Money from a 32-cent surcharge that the state added to cell-phone bills two years ago fueled the advance. The dimes and pennies collected through the fee added up, generating the millions of dollars now paying for costly new equipment at call centers.

But guess how long the Ohio General Assembly has been ruminating? From WTAP, Parkersburg, W. Va:

Washington County 911 Coordinator Mike Cullums says, “In some of the larger counties in Ohio there is a serious concern because they’re losing wire-land surcharge fees rapidly to cell phones.”

Cullums says there is concern for all Ohio counties in the future, because come next August, the surcharge fee on cell phones might not even exist.

“It took seven years for the Ohio General Assembly to approve the 32 cent fee and it has a three year sunset provision in it. So that’s our biggest concern in Ohio, is trying to make sure it stays in place.”

Cullums says Ohio’s surcharge fees only cover equipment and software. Law enforcement agencies foot the bill for labor.

[My emphasis]

Can you say “term limits”? Come on, those who know better than me – chime in. I tried to find the bill/law on the legislature’s site but had no luck.

Here’s a list of the PUCO’s Ohio 9-1-1 Council and Wireless 9-1-1 Advisory Board (the latter is a small subset of the former).

Bill. Callahan. What’s the scoop? I’m off to search your blog, among other things.

Finally, anyone have anything on what the Republican-led Ohio GA was doing for seven years before it approved the surcharge and while the rest of the country, for a change, got ahead of Ohio, for a change? Here’s a bit that I’ve found:

The law was passed in December 2004, just after the 2004 elections. This Journal News article (full article for fee only) wrote, in June, 2005:

Ohio has lagged woefully behind in the implementation of a 911 service for cell phone users. But progress is on its way with the implementation in August of a 32-cent monthly charge to cell phone customers. For eight years, counties in Ohio tried to pry an emergency network for cellular phones out of the Legislature. Finally, last December, a deal was reached to sunset the fee increase put in place to pay for the system. The additional charge will end on Dec. 31, 2008.

And still, now, in April 2007, we still lag woefully behind.

Does no one else get outraged at how little has changed, and that the money will cease to be collected without action, from what I can glean? Funny how an article written a two months before the law took effect and two years before today, calls the eight year battle to get the thing passed “progress.” Looking back, I guess Ohioans just have a very tortured idea of what progress is.

For now, here’s how one county advises its residents:

Washington County is now working to implement Wireless E9-1-1, which will make it possible to locate 9-1-1 callers using cell phones. In August 2005, the Ohio General Assembly enacted a 32-cent per month cell phone surcharge, which brings to Washington County $102,200 each of the next three years to fund implementation of Wireless 9-1-1. Washington County is working with our bordering counties and the various cellular service providers to implement this service, which should be available in 2007.

It is important to understand that even after Wireless 9-1-1 is in place, a cell phone call to 9-1-1 may route to a different city or county than where you are located. After all, these devices we know as “cell phones” are actually radios, and there is no technology to select which cell tower your phone’s radio signal may hit. For example, if you call 911 on a cell phone in Washington County, Ohio, the signal may hit a tower in Wood County, West.Virginia, or vice versa. Be prepared to describe your location to dispatchers to assist them in getting help to you.

I’m going into cynical mode and guess that this might be one of those things that isn’t going to get much attention until an Ohio legislator suffers because of Ohio’s lag in wireless 911 service.

3 thoughts on “Ohio's 911 service for cell users at country's bottom, Ohio GA couldn't get act together

  1. David – thanks for sharing that. As you may have seen by now, I used your comment in another post about the situation. It’s so scary to me, all the things we don’t know about. 😦

  2. I’m shocked. I would expect better from Ohio. As for this: “*what the Republican-led Ohio GA was doing for seven years*”You know what they were doing. Padding themselves and generally doing not much. Er, except mischief and mayhem…

  3. I’d just be happy to have 9-1-1 at all. I live in Monroe County (directly North of Washington County) and we have to dial a 10 digit number for the local volunteer fire department (they also have an ambulance). If they don’t have anyone on duty we then have to call another 10 digit number for another service farther away. Last November we had to call an ambulance and it ended up being over 30 minutes between the first call we made (of two) and the time one actually arrived (at the wrong house).

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